Getting to the Root Cause of your Anxiety
Where does anxiety come from? It comes from our thoughts and reactions to situations and the stories we make up in our head about what these situations mean.
Underneath these stories are beliefs which trigger certain emotional responses. Some of our beliefs trigger positive emotional responses (eg: “I have a loving family” makes a person feel loved), while other beliefs trigger negative or unresourceful responses (eg: “the world is going to end” can make a person feel very anxious!)
Viktor Frankl, the famous psychiatrist who endured the horrors of the Holocaust, said “Between stimulus and response there is space. In that space is the power to choose our response.”
So if your anxiety is driving you crazy, then it’s time to sit down with pen and paper, and give yourself the space and attention to understand what is underneath the anxiety.
We want to explore what our beliefs are, and then ask ourselves if they are true. What can be very surprising is that just because we have a belief, doesn’t mean its true!
You may have formed a belief when you were a small child, or at a time in your life when a certain belief served you in some way. Now as an adult you may have outgrown that belief, yet it is still driving your behaviour. For example, a person may have a belief from their childhood that it is important to be seen and not heard. Now as an adult, that belief is causing them to keep quiet and not stand fully in their own power, which in turn is holding them back in life, making them feel frustrated and undervalued. This is the kind of belief that would serve a person well to weed out and rewrite into something more powerful!
Below are the questions to guide you through this exercise. Here is the process with an example:
- What is the belief that makes me feel anxious?
I believe that … life will never be the same again.
- How long have I had this belief?
Since lockdown began.
- How is this belief serving me? Is it true? Am I 100% certain?
This belief makes me worried about the future which doesn’t serve me at all. I don’t know if its true, as the future is unknown, so I can’t be 100% certain that this belief is true. When I really think about it, I’m pretty sure that life will go back to normal eventually.
- What is a more productive and helpful belief?
All that matters is what is in the here and now. My family are healthy and we have a roof over our head and food on the table. All is well.
- How do I feel now?
Much better. Calm and happy. Grateful for what I do have.
Do this with any kind of emotion that you don’t want – sadness, boredom, irritation, anger, etc.